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Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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It is amazing how rumors or wives tales can be passed among friends or down through the ages, affecting the behavior of thousands without any basis on solid ground.  Even an experienced runner or walker can be operating off of a faulty or outdated instruction manual now and again.  Although we bring up these topics periodically in the blog, they are always worthwhile to review.

 

 

More mileage is always better

 

False.  Training allows you to prepare for the race task, and extended periods of significant volume could allow you to be prepared for very challenging tasks.  It also could leave you injured and unable to do any challenging tasks.   Your runcoach schedule is calibrated to consider what you have done in the past and will help you safely progress, prioritizing the goal of arriving at race day ready to do your best.  This means planned and regular recovery.  Every week will not necessarily include more mileage than the last.  Consistent training over time is the best way to gradually increase your volume, but in many cases other aspects of your schedule can make an even bigger difference than merely just mileage alone.

 

You must carbo-load before every race

 

False. Race-organized pasta feeds and a sincere effort to prepare as well as possible often lead participants down a road of excessive consumption the night before a race.  There is scant evidence that loading up in this fashion can effect shorter races such as a 5K or 10K, and even in longer efforts, fueling effectively during the race can often have a bigger say in the final analysis.  Consider also how much a body can process in 12 hours.  Consuming 3 or 4 times your typical size dinner must be dealt with, and that process might interrupt your morning more than any lack of energy you were worried about to begin with.

 

You can train at your current fitness and still progress

 

True! Hundreds of thousands of workouts for thousands of plans has reinforced our conviction that a training plan based on paces associated with your current fitness level can allow you to adapt and perform at a progressively higher level.   Training specifically for goal pace sounds like a great idea, but you might not have figured out exactly how far you can progress in the time between the current day and your goal race day.  What if you were actually in better shape than you thought?  What if you didn’t progress as far as you hoped?  Would you still embark upon that pace?  Of course not.  We provide the tools you need to make successful race efforts with confidence, knowing you have done the work to support your plan.  This doesn’t mean that you never have workouts that include paces faster than what might be your goal pace  - your 5K pace will always be faster than your marathon pace, but the data is based on you and your current fitness.

 

Exercise is bad for you as you age

 

False.  A widely cited and encouraging Stanford University study reinforced what avid runners have felt for years - that running actually has a positive effect on most aging athletes.  Senior citizen runners tracked for over 25 years have no increased incidence of osteoarthritis issues in their knees, have lower mortality rates, and generally have delayed onset of mobility and other issues related to aging.    Certainly older runners need to take good care of themselves, adjusting their schedule as needed, but sensible running actually appears to benefit a person as they hit the silver years.

 

Studies have found similar benefits from walking: http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/research-points-to-even-more-health-benefits-of-walking

 

You aren’t a real runner if you don’t run fast

 

False.  One of the great things about our sport is that it provides an unlimited amount of access points, from walkers to Olympic sprinters and everyone in between.  Some of us are triathletes and some of us don’t have time to train for longer distances, sticking with 5Ks.  Some of us enjoy track workouts, and others stick mainly to the trails. As the ranks of adult runners and walkers increases, so has the definition of “athlete” broadened as well.  Any arbitrary cut off for what constitutes a “real” athlete could be just as nonsensical as saying that if we can’t match Usain Bolt or Meb, why try.  Count us among those who are glad the sport is inclusive, and we look forward to supporting you as you achieve your personal bests on the road ahead.

Night_running_croppedIn order to fully enjoy the benefits and experience of outdoor exercise, it is important to stay safe.  Although some basics seem fairly simple and even obvious as sound preventative measures, even experienced runners and walkers might do well to review a few simple safety tips.  Although mishaps are rare, the habit of good safety practices can really make a difference that one time when you are desperate for help.

 

Tell someone when and where you are going

If someone is expecting you at a certain time and you don’t arrive, they might send the help or make the call that might prove crucial in that very small chance that you really are in trouble. If no one is aware that you are past due or where you might have gone, those who care about you might have a much tougher time tracking you down.  Leaving a note on the counter, sending a text, or just telling a friend, family member, or co-worker what you are up to is a good habit to keep.  Even if you live alone, leaving a note to be seen by someone else in the event another needed to enter your house while looking for you, a text to someone else, or even an online calendar entry take next to no time at all, and can help others to track you down if things really have gone awry.

 

Be visible

Whether you are running or walking at dusk or dawn, in bad weather or hazy good weather, on a remote trail or a busy road, it does not hurt to wear bright clothes. Make choices that ensure other pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and others can see you.  Be visible to traffic coming the opposite direction when you don’t have an ample shoulder, be visible if you are sharing a bike path with quickly moving wheeled vehicles, and be visible if you turn an ankle, fall into the bushes and need some help.  If you don’t like loud clothing, a bright hat or even a white hat / visor can often do the trick.  Time to jump on board with the neon trend, even if that means donning a reflective vest at night.  That split second of recognition can make a huge difference in a challenging traffic situation.

 

Have water

This piece is not the space where we talk in depth about the value of hydration as a training tool.  However, water can be crucial if stuck in hot weather or other challenging situations.  It is such a simple thing to bring a water bottle that we might take it for granted, but if you have ever been in a prolonged situation where clean water would have been useful, you will likely never forget again.

 

Be aware of your surroundings

Just like the defensive driving course you took as a high schooler, runners and walkers should always keep their surroundings in mind.  Scanning the path ahead will allow you to stay one step ahead of dangerous situations.  Keep your eyes open for individuals who might be following you in city locales, for quickly opening car doors, for cars entering and exiting driveways.  Be on the look out for wildlife that might pose a problem in less densely populated areas, aggressive dogs with no visible means of restraint or territorial boundaries, and topography with an ankle-challenging pothole ahead.  Furthermore, either ditch the headphones, wear them in one ear only, or turn the volume low enough that you can still be aware of the ambient noise.  That moment of awareness can make the difference.

 

When possible, go with a buddy

Many of us run or walk solo more often than not, but when possible, it is always safer to go along with a friend who can help if something goes awry, and make any individuals with less than wholesome intent think twice about encountering you.

 

Finally, leave a trail

Well, not literally like Hansel and Gretel, but GPS enabled devices, a phone that can indicate your location even if you are unable to – these things can make a big difference.  You might already be carrying your phone for music, but it may prove to be even more important in this capacity.  With running shorts now sporting several pockets, and companies coming up with new types of light pouches every day, there are many ways to carry these things without impacting performance or your enjoyment.

 

imagesOne of the most interesting and perhaps culturally curious trends over the past several years has been the transition of chocolate milk from a treat for kids, to a serious nutrition application for competitive athletics.  Surprisingly, a significant number of studies have been done to measure the effect of chocolate milk on performance over the past several years, charting the performance and recovery of cyclists, runners, soccer players, and more.  In study after study, chocolate milk performs extremely well, as an option for recovery and refueling. If you have had a hard time wrapping your head around this idea, consider the various properties of chocolate milk as you would your favorite sports drink or water.

 

Optimal carb/ protein ratio

Many runners are well versed on the importance of refueling soon after running, and that carb snack 10-15 minutes after the workout can be rendered even more effective by the incorporation of some protein, at a about a 4:1 ratio between the two. Sports drink manufacturers have spent years creating an artificial beverage with those numbers.  Chocolate milk features a ratio right along those lines naturally – no lab experiments necessary!

Key nutrients for bone health

Chocolate milk contains a wide variety of nutrients, many of which are great assets to good health and performance.  Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and others are directly related to bone health and growth.   One 8oz glass of chocolate milk provides approximately 1/3 of the recommended daily value for Vitamin D and nearly the same percentage of the recommended amount of calcium. As such, it is a great way to access some of our key nutrients from food rather than supplements or engineered beverages.

Plenty of electrolytes to replenish those lost in sweat

A glass of milk provides potassium, sodium in amounts that help an athlete stave off the effect from lots of sweating.  There are actually more of each in chocolate milk compared with some of the most popular sports drinks, and certainly more in chocolate milk than water.  If you need to sweat and sweat often, chocolate milk will help you replenish what you have lost and speed the recovery process.

Protein, a great builder

There are not many sports drinks that can also incorporate protein effectively, and it is even more difficult to have them do so if taste is a consideration.  One glass of milk provides nearly 20% of the daily, recommended amount.  Like pizza delivery that is both prompt and provides excellent pizza, protein found in chocolate milk is a great way to get this needed nutrient, in a very efficient manner.

Besides these many benefits, other studies have indicated even more reasons to consume chocolate milk, such as the presence of B vitamins, and other assets.  Each of us has an individual preference for our recovery and fluid replacement vehicles, whether due to taste or if our bodies can process it effectively while running and without GI distress.  If you are looking for an alternative or have never tried overtly refueling after exercise, chocolate milk might be a good place to start, and an enjoyable beverage to have stocked in the fridge for even the non-runners in the family.

 

SmogAlong with warm temperatures and more daylight, summer in our urban and suburban areas can also bring more days with poor air.  Running is an activity typically considered beneficial to your health, but a huge dose of smog inhalation doesn’t seem like a great idea either.  What else do we need to know?

 

Why is running in bad air a problem?

When we exercise, we require more air, breathing more rapidly and deeply than when we are on the couch.  We also tend to breathe through our mouths, which means the protective capabilities of our nasal passages don’t help filter out some of the less desirable particles in the air as they normally would.

 

These less desirable particles come in many forms, as detailed by leading voices such as Roy Shepherd of Toronto Western Hospital, as far back as the early 80s in the lead up to the Los Angeles Olympic Games.  Some, as in carbon monoxide emitted from car exhaust, inhibit the body’s ability to transport oxygen via red blood cells by sticking to the bonding points on the oxygen molecules.  Less oxygen means impaired performance over the course of your session. Other chemicals such as the sulfur oxides coming from industrial sites, may gum up water particles in your body to create acidity and irritation in your airways[1].

 

Is that problem serious?

Certainly, many of us run all summer in heavily polluted areas and feel ok. Others have great difficulty.  If you are pre-disposed to asthma or allergies, if you notice that your airway gets itchy even when others around you are fine, or you feel like you have a lingering common cold in polluted conditions, you should definitely be cautious.  Pollution does increase the risk of some serious health issues, such as stroke, asthma, and heart problems, but exercise helps to reduce those risks as well.  Visits to the doctor definitely tick up during smoggy periods, but then again, exercising regularly can keep you away from the clinic over the long term[2].

 

How to reduce the risks associated with running in polluted air

There is no way to completely eliminate the effects of the polluted air that summer might bring, even if exercise is taken out of the equation.  However, we can do some things to help mitigate the negative impact and protect your body as much as you can.

  • Exercise indoors. Especially when it is extremely hot and humid, a run on the treadmill on a bad air day can help reduce the direct impact you might feel from the heavy pollution in the air.
  • Avoid high traffic areas or busy times of day. When possible, even a few more feet separation from the passing exhaust pipes on a busy thoroughfare can help reduce the concentration of pollutants seeping into your lungs.  Do your best to find a trail, field, or even an empty parking lot.
  • Run in the morning.  Smog gets worse throughout the day.  If you can prioritize morning running during a period of bad air, it might help.
  • Wear a mask. If you are having trouble and don’t feel self-conscious, these actually help filter out undesirable particles from getting to your lungs.
  • Stay on top of air quality advisories.  Go to AirNow.gov and type in your zip code for daily readings.
  • Keep a level head. Air quality, like any other environmental factor, such as weather or altitude, can legitimately affect your performance as well as your perceived level of exertion, even if your times are consistent.  Keep that in mind when evaluating your performance on a given workout or training session.

 

Research is still ongoing, but studies appear to generally indicate that the benefits of exercise over the long term are greater than the near term negative impact of bad air while doing so.  Listen to your own body, use common sense and the tips above, and hopefully the smog of summer won’t prevent your enjoyment of summer training.

 



[1] Davis, John. “Does Air Pollution Affect Running Performance?”  Runners Connect. Web. Accessed 2 July 2014.

[2] Hutchinson, Alex. “Exhaust Yourself.” Outside. Web.  5 July 2012.  Accessed 2 July 2014.

altitudeWinter is not the only time your running may take you among the clouds.  Summer vacations or trips with family might bring you to the mountains.  When you need to run at high altitudes, keeping in mind a few simple things can make your experience much more enjoyable and productive.

 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

At high altitudes, you may not feel sweaty, even after you run.  However, that does not mean that you don’t need to replenish your fluids even more so than at sea level.  At higher altitudes, there is less air pressure.  Evaporation happens more rapidly both off your skin as well as every time you exhale.  At an altitude similar to Denver, you perspire about twice as much as at sea level.  If you are not being very deliberate about water intake, your running will suffer, and general dehydration may make you feel ill (headaches, nausea, fatigue are common effects) regardless.  Carry a water bottle with you, drink throughout the day, and avoid caffeinated beverages.  If you are concerned about how much to drink, weigh yourself before and after a run at altitude to get a sense of how much water you have perspired during the session.

 

Expect to adjust your paces

Running at altitude requires your body to function when your lungs aren’t getting the same concentration of oxygen with each breath.   Your body has to fight harder to produce red blood cells and the whole operation makes things more difficult on your muscles to function in the manner to which you may be accustomed.  If you can run an eight minute mile at sea level, doing so at an altitude similar to Albuquerque or Reno might leave you the finishing the length of a football field behind your sea level self.  For instance, your Vo2 Max pace is adjusted about 3% per 1000 feet, and expect it to still feel pretty tough.  Keeping a good humor and realistic expectations is key to successfully managing your schedule when heading to the hills.

 

It will get better...but it will get a little worse first

There is a lot of discussion about the benefits of training at altitude, but a long weekend at a mountain cabin won’t quite get you there.  When you arrive, your body begins to fight the good fight to produce red blood cells, despite the paucity of oxygen.  Initially, it will lose this fight, and your red blood cell stores will dwindle a bit over the first few days making these days successively more difficult to a certain extent.  After your body figures out that it needs to work a ton harder, it will, and production will ramp up like a toy company at Christmas.  However, this takes a about 2-3 weeks before supply can catch demand.  Once you return to sea level, this high octane production will dissipate fairly soon as the air pressure yields more oxygen per breath.  So, if you are serious about wanting to train at altitude, plan a longer stay, and don’t expect a huge boost months after you return.

Protect your skin

Even a cloudy day in the mountains can result in a sunburn with UV rays over twice as strong at many common mountain heights.  Wear hats and sunscreen, reapplying frequently to stay ahead of sun damage.

 

Keep fueling

At high altitude, your body must work harder to keep up with all the demands listed above and more.  A moderate caloric increase is appropriate to keep up with your body’s needs.

 

While the benefits and challenges of running at altitude are still being researched, a beautiful trail run in the mountains can provide qualitative benefits that go beyond the resultant blood chemistry, and training hard and with friends can plant the psychological seeds for many a goal race campaign.  Plan well, take care of your body while in the hills, and enjoy many a mile in the thin air.

Originally written by Dena Evans
Updated by Hiruni Wijayaratne

Box_to_sync_allOn Wednesday, June 11, Garmin announced an application programming interface partnership with runcoach. But what does that actually mean for you and how do you take advantage?

 

You may have been enjoying your runcoach schedule and recording your workouts directly into the log.  However, if you use a device to track your actual pace and distance while running, such as a Garmin device, runcoach has made it very simple to load these runs directly into your account.

 

Sign into runcoach, click on “Training” and select the “Sync Devices” button.  You’ll be prompted to enter your Garmin Connect username and password.  Your accounts will sync up and begin to communicate when you provide input, allowing you to save time and protect accuracy by loading your actual information into your runcoach log when you upload your Garmin data.

 

Note: Even if your Garmin device is set to your time zone, your Garmin Connect account might not be.  Garmin Connect defaults everyone to Greenwich Mean Time. GMT is 4-7 hours ahead of most of our members so if you do an evening run it might show up on the following day.

 

Before your initial sync, we recommend checking this setting on the Garmin Connect site.  Log on and then go to your Display Preferences: http://connect.garmin.com/settings

 

 

Our system works best for you when the information it receives is as accurate as possible.  While a convenience for our users, connectivity such as the partnership with Garmin also helps runcoach work more effectively and craft your individual plan even more specifically.

 

Clicking on the Sync Devices button on your training schedule will also reveal that you  can sync your runcoach device with Nike+, RunKeeper, and Fitbit.  No matter which of these devices or systems you use to record your activity, runcoach is recognized by these organizations as a tool many of their customers are using to good advantage, just as runcoach understands that our users are enthusiastic customers of these companies and rely on these devices and their data on a daily basis.

 

Do you need to use one of these devices to make your runcoach schedule serve your needs?  No, but as a technology company ourselves, we hope to grow alongside the increasing capability of devices that help our athletes get the most out of their running, and we look forward to similar future developments and progress. Enjoy syncing with Garmin and more importantly, enjoy the runs that create all that data!

 

 

 

For all the athletes we see sign up for races, set goals, follow through with their training and succeed, there are still others who are held back from taking the all important first step.  Often, what prevents these individuals are fears that may not be well founded. Don’t let these common fears stand in your way!

 

I wasn’t an athlete growing up

Mildly traumatic memories of being the last one picked on the playground or sitting on the bench in youth soccer might sting, and leave runners with a sense that they were not cut out for sports.  This is not an uncommon road to running.  Many competitive runners turned to the sport after realizing their gifts lay elsewhere from ball sports or team games.  Furthermore, the fable of the tortoise and the hare is seared into our memory for a reason.  Persistence is an indispensable character trait for distance running.  Many athletic people with tons of talent have fallen short of their goals as well.  Talent and ability aren’t much without persistence.  If you already have that grit, you have the biggest variable already on board.

 

I don’t look like a runner

A generation ago, the demographics of runners were much more homogenous.  There were far fewer opportunities for new runners and those who endeavored just to complete the task.  This is no longer the case.  While Olympians might be somewhat birds of a feather in terms of body types, the millions of others completing races in the US and around the world tell us otherwise.  The important thing to focus on is what your body can do rather than what it looks like.  You are a functional device, and perhaps a more amazingly functional device than you could ever imagine.  Focus on what you can do, and you might even surprise yourself.

 

I’ve never even run one mile straight

At one point, neither had any of us! Running is a rewarding pursuit for many reasons, but a huge one is that it provides countless opportunities for intermediate goals along your road to your big race.  Running is about a positive mindset, and that confidence is a big factor.  If you progress sensibly, what seemed long will eventually seem mundane.  Integrating walking breaks between a few minutes of running at a time is one time honored way to progress to a longer distance.  What was once 1 minute of running alternating with four minutes of walking can become 2 run / 3 walk, 3 run / 2 walk, and 4 run, 1 walk before you know it. Although it might take a little while, if you make incremental progress and give yourself proper recovery, you will eventually make it.  You just need the courage to try.

 

Nobody I know runs

If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it, right?  Running toward an endurance goal is not easy, but when you follow through and complete your goal, you set an invaluable example for family members or friends who may have thought you crazy for even trying.  Running can be a great social activity if you have others to run with, and if you think you might enjoy that, try your local running store.  Many stores have weekly informal training runs which fit well into your runcoach schedule.  Meeting others training for a big goal can help you feel as though you aren’t alone with your body’s quirks, nervousness, or occasionally wavering confidence.  Likewise, if you are the only one in the house who runs, flip the script and consider not how little people share your experience, but how you can share it with them.  Encouraging others to run with you makes you accountable for how your training is going and can often help spur an athlete to take greater ownership over the road to success.  More importantly, it can often make a crucial difference for a loved one who could benefit from improved fitness.

 

In short, none of us look or feel that great in the 25th mile of a marathon.  After 26.2, the feeling of elation and the amazement about what the human body can accomplish wash over us in a much more indelible way and the memory of the difficult 25th mile begins to recede.  When we focus on what we can do, what we can accomplish, what we have the ability to accomplish based on our insides rather than our outsides, we get farther.  Take a chance on yourself and seize the opportunity to enjoy a finishing feeling of your very own.

 

 

Meb_Boston_croppedIf Meb Keflezighi’s victory at Boston taught us one thing, it is that we shouldn’t limit our belief in ourselves. After winning the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, Meb was injured in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic trials and was unable to even make the team.  Responding from that enormous disappointment, he bounced back in spectacular fashion, becoming the first American to win the New York Marathon in 2009.  Despite this superlative triumph, challenges again loomed as he parted with his primary sponsor, Nike, in 2010.  Sponsor-less and with a young family, Meb began to build a stable of small partners, some of which were very new to the elite running market.  Skechers, for one, known previously for building shoes that they professed would tone the backside, banked on Meb to help their brand translate to the running masses, and became his footwear and uniform sponsor.  Meb responded by winning the 2012 marathon trials and finishing just out of the London medals in fourth.   Again riding high but facing training challenges leading in, Meb entered New York in 2013 as the favorite son, only to have the type of difficult day that would cause most in his position to drop out rather than post a result much lower than expectations.  Instead, he persisted at a much slower pace for the last several miles, even befriending and finishing hand in hand with a local athlete, inspired by the tragedy of Boston. And then, of course, there was Monday.

 

Entering a half or full marathon can be intimidating when the pictures we see and the stories we follow are often at the front of the pack.  However, one of the most positive changes over the past generation has been the way so many millions of people have been able to personalize the challenge of the race to their own level.

 

At runcoach we train many walkers and first time runners with a simple goal, to finish the race.  For many, that accomplishment is the culmination of a lifetime of doubt and the gateway to a new era of self-confidence and belief.  Although it may seem like Meb’s performances are as far away as the sea is wide, there are several ways in which his race and career translate directly to our hopes for these athletes.

 

He is not the fastest, but he gets the most out of himself every time.

One of the many ways in which Meb’s story hits a nerve with many of us is that his times aren’t the fastest of his cohort.  Despite his Olympic medal, his New York and Boston victories, his personal best, set Monday, is a full five minutes behind the world record and several minutes slower than many of the competitors he faced on each of those days.  In fact, his time on Monday is equivalent to only the 77th best time run in 2013.  If he is concerned with this, it hasn’t shown.  Meb trains and races to the best of his ability each time out.  As his career has shown, that approach is often more than good enough.

 

He is persistent despite setbacks.

Meb has had bad days (2008 Olympic Trials, 2013 New York Marathon), but he has memorably chosen to finish rather than give up.  He has had times when he could have fallen back on his UCLA degree and quit, rather than persist in a running career when he didn’t have a primary sponsor and many felt he was over the hill.  Somehow, he found the belief to persist and his persistence has paid off.

 

He has modified his training to do what is right for him, not the masses.

In recent years, Meb has cross trained by using the ElliptiGO (elliptical bike), moved from altitude Mammoth Lakes to San Diego, and made other adjustments that have allowed him to stretch his world class athletic career to this pinnacle at age 38,.  These are not the changes that would have been dictated by conventional wisdom on world class distance running.  Many of our athletes are tempted to chase arbitrary standards about how much a person should run per week, what pace is “really running,” and more.  Our plans are personalized to you for a reason – we want you to be healthy and successful on race day.  We don’t believe in templates, because we know each athlete has different strengths and challenges in their schedule, injury history, and athletic experience (or maybe they have none at all).  Our plans intend to help you progress toward your goals, and then help set new ones.  These are personal to you, just like Meb has been able to find a successful formula specific to him.

 

His goals are to get to the starting line healthy, THEN run his best time.  In that order.  Sound familiar?

Reflecting on the events of the last week, it is amazing to take a look at his blog from last year at this time.  One little known aspect of this story is that Meb was actually forced to withdraw from last year’s race due to a freak injury sustained when encountering a dog on a run.  We can all relate to that type of inadvertent event in our own lives, and like us, he knows it is not always subject to his control whether or not he is successful in that first goal.  His second goal is to set a personal best.  Setting a personal best means doing something you have not done in the past.  For many of us, that is no different than making it farther than we have before.  “Personal best” does not necessarily mean running fast – it means doing your best. It also requires the confidence to do it at the right time, not pushing so hard every day leading up to the big one that you have nothing left to give. Your plan is crafted to set you up the same way.

 

Of course, one significant difference from most of us is that Meb’s third goal was to WIN the race, a goal made probably so much more resonant in its accomplishment when he had to miss last year, not to mention for all the other reasons mentioned above.  Completing a race for a world class athlete can have reverberations felt far beyond themselves, and they know it.  Their families benefit, their communities may benefit, others like ourselves may be inspired to do something audacious.  Like these athletes, even as walkers and first-timers, our efforts make a difference.  While we may not have a platform affecting millions, our efforts to persist, do our best, and accomplish new challenges can reverberate to those we care about, and to those they care about.  Meb’s win at Boston sprung from a series of challenging times and goals set and stuck to.   His victory, while amazing, is also just a simple testament to the power of belief and commitment to continue getting out the door each day.  Like all of us, there have been days where that was more difficult than others, days when those around him thought he didn’t have the ability to be successful in his task, days when he may have even doubted it himself.  We may not be able to run as fast as Meb, but we should never discount the power of that belief in ourselves, and regardless of the finishing time, the elation of passing under the finishing banner.

 

usaFor many runners, the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon has been a “where were you when you heard” moment in the year that has passed since.  In the immediate aftermath, many marathoners fielded repeated questions from casual acquaintances and close friends and families alike, concerned for their safety if they were running, concerned for their safety even if they weren’t running, curious about details about which the runner in question may have had no additional information than the average person.   Runners may have even dealt with a lot of “could have been me; could have been my family” feelings.  In general, many of us spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the race, the events which led to its premature ending, and how to respond.

 

The events of last April 15, where three lost their lives and 170 were injured, struck a chord among many, whether they were familiar with the experience of running a marathon or not.  Late summer Boston qualifying event registrations swelled as athletes started training for a chance to hit a mark before the September entry date.  Athletes who may have never run a marathon or even a 5K before pledged to train and enter this year’s race.  Runners whose race was left incomplete by police road blocks vowed to prepare again in order to finish what they started.  “Boston Strong” iconography became immediately understood as the extra dose of motivation needed to accomplish any array of tough tasks.

 

With the 118th running of the historic race only a few days away, the adrenaline is pumping through the collective veins of a race field ranging from Massachusetts native and American hope Shalane Flanagan down to the “run to finish” athletes in the third wave.  If your Patriot’s Day does not include the chance to join with these individuals as they strive for a national catharsis on behalf of all of us, what can you do to make a difference while the eyes of the world are turned to this bittersweet occasion?

 

Encourage others

Overcoming fear with courage has been a driving desire for many taking part in this year’s race.  For many of us, the fears that prevent us from getting out the door and starting down the road to a fitness goal are not nearly as sensational, but no less crippling in their ability to let inertia prevent us from moving forward.  Consider with whom you can partner to start toward a new goal by engaging in regular exercise. Make a point to come along side them with encouragement this week.

 

Donate

Marathons and charity drives go hand in hand these days, but if you are able and have been looking for a way to make a tangible difference, this race and those running it provide a group of people and causes who are likely some of the most highly motivated athletes to take on the fundraising challenge, including a lot of first timers.  Check out the list of official Boston marathon charities or scroll down your Facebook page.  Likely a runner you care about and believe in is working hard toward a big goal on Monday with others besides themselves in mind. Get behind them if you can!

 

Set your own new goal

Your training plans might not include Boston, or maybe the will was there, but the qualifier or time to train well was not.  Use the opportunity to consider what breakthrough you have been delaying and make some concrete plans toward getting past it.   Many have shown tremendous commitment and perseverance this year as they prepared for this particular race.  Let their stories inspire you to do something inspiring yourself!

 

Reflect, remember, and process

Running can often be our escape from the stresses of every day life. Depending on how close you were to the events of last April 15 or how shaken you were by the news, you may not have had the chance to be mindful of any grieving process you may have been going through, even if it feels a bit remote and true grieving is not the word you would use to describe how you processed your feelings about the tragedy.  Because we have some of the common experiences shared by those directly affected by the bombings, we would do well to make sure we haven’t glossed over any lingering doubts about future situations, talk it through with others equipped with helpful insight, and be conscious of our resolve to move forward confidently.

 

“Boston Strong” is a powerful phrase.  This week, consider how you can truly embody the spirit of the words and encourage others to do so with lasting, positive impact.

 

 

The pace run or track workout has concluded and the first tide of satisfaction washes over.  Although the “heavy lifting” of the workout may be in the rear view mirror, some of the most important work in your training schedule still may lie ahead.  We often focus on the pace runs and long runs, but the recovery between those hard days is what helps determine how well your body will adapt and be ready for the next challenge.  Take your recovery seriously.

Recovery doesn’t begin when you finally tuck into bed the night following your workout.  Recovery begins as you unwind your body from the hard work just accomplished minutes before.  Busy schedules may tempt us to skip a cool down jog, but it’s important to reserve some time for this last piece of your workout.  Even a couple easy laps after your last hard interval or pace run can help unwind your body and your mind.

The cool down provides an often crucial transition period for your body and mind as it goes from high intensity requirements to preparedness for the next activity of your day.  The cool down does not have a huge amount of science proving its necessity, but it’s important that you don’t stop completely and immediately after long, hard exercise,or take your heart rate from extremely high to extremely low in moments (this is why many marathons and half marathons automatically build in lengthy post-finish straightaways to walk and collect fuel).  Let your body temperature drop gradually instead of getting straight into the car sopping wet with sweat.  Giving yourself a moment to jog, roll, and stretch before getting into that same car can prepare your tired muscles for the commute and prevent the onset of post-workout tightness.  A week later, that post-workout tightness can resurface as IT band or low back tightness, from which it may be just a stone’s throw to an injury as workout loads increase.

Stretching has been discussed in the running media a great deal lately, with the once familiar pre and post-run routines now discarded as outdated and not a necessary precursor to injury prevention or better performance.  While we encourage dynamic exercise as a part of our Active Warm-up, we also encourage athletes to be knowledgeable about post-run foam (or other tool) rolling and stretching (even if you only have those precious few minutes). Even if you don’t practice both or each every single day, it is wise to keep those tools in your arsenal.  They help the body transition from the tension of the hard workout to post-run life. 

Another key aspect of recovery is rehydration and refueling.  If running longer than an hour, consuming about 1/3 of your calories burned per hour through sports drink or food can help ensure success.  Making sure to get at least that much food down the hatch in the first 15-30 minutes after working out (even if you don’t feel hungry), can make a significant difference in how quickly your body will begin to prepare itself for the next hard task.  Waiting 2 hours and then eating a huge meal or a pitcher of beer is an absolute no-no! This will delay your recovery and adaptation for your next workout.  Bring a snack and a low sugar sports drink to your workout and consume them when you are done.  You’ll take the edge off the hunger (and avoid a need for a ridiculously huge meal later).  You will feel stronger for the rest of the day and more importantly for your running, eliminate needless time where you body is hunting around for fuel sources in vain.

When you do get to hit the hay, an evening workout may leave you wide awake.  While this may be unavoidable, morning or midday runners should feel nice and tired when bedtime comes.  Resist the temptation to let a post-hard workout or race day act as a reward to not worry about sleep.  In fact, those nights are most crucial. This is your body’s time to repair and prepare for the running ahead. Do your level best to get good sleep the night after a hard day and give yourself the best chance possible for future success and injury free running.

Human nature, the demands of every day life, and other unpredictable aspects of modern living may intervene and prevent you from always executing a perfect recovery routine.  Do your best, try to chalk up small wins each day, and integrate good habits as much as you can.  Your body will respond with more good days, and hopefully your future successes will encourage you to continue treating yourself well post-run.

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